Organoids and Boltzmann Brains

One of the more fascinating and creepy events in biology over the past twelve years has been the development of cerebral organoids, sometimes called mini-brains, in a petri dish.  Biologists have learned how to transform regular cells, for example skin cells, into pluripotent stem cells and in turn transform these into neural stem cells and grow them in vitro.  

These clumps of grey matter spontaneously organize themselves into something like mini-brains, developing axons and dendrites, developing neural connections, and sending each other electrical neural signals.  These organoids clearly have the potential to teach a lot about brain development, brain function, and brain disease.

They also pose deep ethical questions.  Nobody thinks that these organoids are conscious - yet - but the potential is there.  Experimenters are already plotting to make them more brain like by providing them with blood supplies and sensory inputs.

Quanta takes a look at the nascent ethical concerns:

Human ability to play god is getting serious.


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